While we try to stay away from the techno-zombification of our kids, after seeing my 4-year-old literally giggle in delight after playing with my niece’s iPad 2, I admit I started to look into cheaper, more kid-friendly devices like an iPad for kids in consideration for Christmas this year. I figured with limited use and the large screen, it could still be used in an educational manner. Unfortunately, the world of tablet toys similar to an iPad for kids are quite limited and not that cheap. Here are your options for devices like an iPad for kids:
Leapfrog LeapPad 2, 3 or Ultra
This was my first choice, because my kids do have a Leapfrog Explorer already, and the games from the Explorer work with the LeapPad, however, the screen is a measly five inches, and that’s not five by five, it’s five on just one side resulting in a screen barely larger than the Explorer. Basically, it is a Leapfrog Explorer with a touch-screen. The appeal of the iPad 2 to me was that large 9.7 in. screen. LeapPad 3 will cost you around $99, though the older version, LeapPad 2, can be acquired online for closer to $85. Games are usually $20-25 and Apps, which can be downloaded, are $5 or more.
In 2014, Leapfrog released the Leapfrog LeapPad Ultra which does future a larger screen at 7 X 5 in with a price tag of about $130. Both the LeapFrog 3 and Ultra also have kid-safe browsers.
The Vtech Innotab is very, very similar to the LeapPad 3 in design and price. It also has a small, five-inch touch screen with the latest version, Innotab3, being around $78 and Innotab 2 being around $80 (doesn’t that make sense?). They, like LeapFrog, also recently released a 7 X 5in. screen version, the Innotab Max. This model works pretty much just like a restricted Android phone–kids can even send texts to adults that have been added to their list. Prices run about $100 making it a cheaper alternative for the larger screen size vs the LeapPad Ultra. Innotab also has a wider variety of games (backward compatible with older models as well), but again with the same price range as the LeapPad. If you are OK with the now-only-slightly smaller screen, both models are cheaper than an iPad by far. The deciding factor in LeapPad vs Innotab would be which existing gaming systems you already have due to cartridge compatibility for both products, and how much that extra $30 means to you.
Next, I found the Nabi tablet and the Kurio tablet. Now when I originally wrote this guide back in 2012, both of these tablets only offered a 7 in. screen comparable to the new LeapFrog Ultra and Innotab Max, but now updating it in 2014 it seems they saw the marketing potential of an actual device like an iPad designed for kid’s abuse, because the Kurio 10s has a 10 in. screen. The problem? The bigger screen comes with a
much bigger price tag at a regular retail price of $249.
The Nabi Jr. is still sporting the 7 in. screen and at slightly smaller price tag of $99, and the newer version, Nabi 2 costs around $200. These are tablets and do not use game cartridges, so when comparing the Innotab Max to the Nabi keep this in mind. Both of are essentially Android tablets in kid-tough packaging.
In the end, devices like an iPad for kids are not cheap and none actually measure up to an actual iPad. Some parents will go ahead with the iPad itself and purchase a kid-safe protective cover, I, however, have changed my Christmas plans after doing the research. For toddler-aged kids there are more affordable educational game options, especially when you follow limited-use rules. For kids learning to read who may benefit from educational games offered by a device like an iPad for kids, I’d probably go with the Innotab Max or Kurio 10s depending on your price range.